Tobold's Blog
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Social raiding

I stumbled upon an interesting post by Moroagh on social raiding. He defines it as: "Social raiding is characterized by heterogeneous groups (needing accessiblity time-wise, flexibility in raid composition and tolerance in encounter sensitivity to individual error). It’s also characterized by low attendance and fluctuation in individuals attending and it’s optimized around happiness of the participants (fair raid slot distribution (no benching if specific classes if at all possible) and flat loot distribution (no favored players to optimize performance) and not speed of progression." Good definition, and you can clearly see how this social raiding existed in classic WoW, and disappeared in the Burning Crusade. Thus Moroagh's question of whether Wrath of the Lich King will bring it back.

Twice a month for the last couple of years I'm spending a Monday night with friends playing pen & paper roleplaying games. We just finished a long D&D campaign that lasted almost 3 years, and are now starting with a d6 Star Wars RPG campaign. And when I hear "social raiding", I have to think of my pen & paper RPG group. The thing about that group is that we get almost nothing done during one session. The story advances slowly, and we're lucky if we complete one combat per evening. But that doesn't matter at all. Getting anywhere or leveling up or gaining anything just isn't the point. The role-playing is basically just background, a good excuse to hang out, to sit around a table eating junk food, to chat, joke, swap WoW stories, and have fun. Theoretically we could just hang out without the RPG, but that isn't likely to happen. The structured environment of a RPG campaign with a fixed date and time makes it easier to set such evenings up.

And that is something that is missing from World of Warcraft right now. You could theoretically hang out in a tavern somewhere in Azeroth, but there isn't a structure to it. A 40-man raid to Molten Core gave such a structure, while at the same time having enough slack to still allow taking all your friends with you, regardless of class, and whether they were very good players or not. The TBC 10-man Karazhan raids removed that slack. To get anywhere on a Karazhan raid, you need to have the right class composition, and everybody needs to stay focused. That makes for superior gameplay, but for a lousy social environment. You don't even have the time to do much chatting or fooling around with the people that are there. And you had to kick out or not invite some of your best friends and fun social characters, because they were of the wrong class or just not playing well enough.

In my RPG group, which is nowadays better informed about WoW than I am, because most of them are still playing, somebody mentioned the addition of Zul'Aman in the next content patch. And my first question was whether it would be easier or harder than Karazhan. Apparently it will be harder, and I wasn't happy with that answer. And I ain't happy either that it is a 10-man instance. I'd rather see a new raid dungeon that is easier than Karazhan, and is for 25 players. Because that is what would enable social raiding again. This isn't about "free epics", of course the loot should be less good than Karazhan loot. This is about enabling large groups of people to hang out in a low-stress raid environment and get some raiding experience. Right now the barrier to entry into raiding is just too high. If there was some social raiding, some people would always learn how to raid better and evolve into better raiders, able to take on Karazhan and more. But basically we just want a good excuse to hang out and have fun.
I have to disagree with you completely in this post, Tobold.

Your observations on Karazhan are out of date. Yes, when you first go there it is hard. You wipe often and everyone has to be concentrating.
Once you have been going there for some time, it is no longer hard - it is quite easy. Group composition is not something to worry about too much; of course you still need a couple of tanks and 2 or 3 healers (depending which bosses you are taking on), but whether you have a prot warrior, druid, or pally tank isn't that important.
DPS is whoever wants to come along, you don't need x mages, y rogues etc etc.
Fun? We have a lot of fun and laughter going on in our trips to Kara. There is so much variety in there, from Moroes to Maiden, Opera to Netherspite. Even the trash are varied.
The Prince, with his random Infernals, is still an enjoyable boss. If we fail to kill him in more than 3 attempts we would consider ourselves to be very unlucky, no matter what our group composition is.
No, we are not an uber leet guild with loads of BT epixx.
We always have new members in our Kara raids, and despite the fact that they might have low dps/healing, there is no problem.

Make a 10 man that's easier than Kara? No, that would be pointless.
Zul Aman HAS to be harder than Karazhan. My only complaint is that it should have been released a lot earlier.
Tobold, you don't need objectively easier raid content, you need subjectively easier raid content.

Molten Core was relatively brutal for guilds starting it. Getting 40 people attuned and equipped, running instances for fire resistance gear, getting consumables.. and that was just the preparation. Molten Core had lots of trash mobs and patrols with short respawn timers. Bad pulls were frequent. A few wipes on a later boss would force you to start from the beginning.

That is.. until you had farmed MC to oblivion or got up to speed from Zul'Gurub or Ruins of Ahn'Qiraj, which I consider to be more complex and thus harder instances than Molten Core.

You can joke around and chat in Karazhan if you got up to speed from Heroics. You can joke around in Serpentshrine or the Eye. I bet that bleeding-edge guilds take even Mount Hyjal or Black Temple less seriously now.
I don't know about the technicalities these other commentors are mentioning Tobold, but I can say you hit the nail on the head with the main thrust of this. The #1 reason my tabletop gaming friends report for quitting WoW is that it stopped being fun to hang out once it they started raiding!
The new instance has to have better drops than Kara or a lot of people won't go there.

I agree it shouldn't be more difficult, but instead more dynamic.

A better solution would be to not be able to predict what the exact content of an instance would be due to randomness. Thus you won't exclude a certain player because of his class. Sure you're still going to get good healers and a good tank or 2, and the rest dps, but you won't require that there are at least 2 priests because stuff will need to be shackled, or 2 warlocks because stuff needs to be banished, etc.

Last night I was in Kara and during casual discussion between bosses the raid leader mentioned that beast spec is not a viable raiding spec for hunters. My reply is, it depends on the boss. I hate it when people dictate that a spec is not viable for raiding.

So maybe they should make the new instance not as difficult as Kara, but make the bosses or second half of the instance random, and once you get to a certain point (or after everone has zoned in), you cant bring anyone else into the instance without it reseting.

Thus you can't scope out an instance and swap out players to make the "ideal" group.

Regarding 10 man instances being less relaxed...

The fact is, a 10 man instance has less room for less effective players, less room for error unless the content is trivial.

With a 25 or 40 man instance, you have more room for slack because there just are more people so the responsibility can be spread out more.

The pros:
10-mans are easier to mobilze than a larger raid. Also with 10-mans, you know you are an integral part of the success or failure.
Another idea is if they make the content of the new instance dynamic based on whether your group has certain "less popular" specced classes in the raid.

So if you have a Ret Pally and a Best Hunter, and a shadow priest in your 10 man, the instance will spawn a rare boss...
I guess I'd have to agree with *vlad* on this one.

In my RPG experience over many years (including my kids who have an RPG campaign that is several-years-old now), I don't ever recall a group of more than 10 playing. So I can't agree from my experience that there is any argument from the RPG side, socially, for a group larger than 10 being needed.

And these days, given that even the very-casual guild that I'm in is dabbling in Kara (and truthfully probably not much better geared or organized than a PUG would be), I can't agree that Kara is all that hard anymore in terms of the 'social raiding' argument. But now Kara might be considered somewhat hard, maybe, if a guild is looking to clear Kara and put it on farm in an organized manner and bust through into the 25-man content... but then I'd wonder whether such a group is really just 'social raiding' anymore if they were that serious.

Yeah, it's probably true that eventually MC or ZG became raids in which a couple or three buddies could fill the 38, 39, and 40 slots just to hang out, and not making any real difference in the success or failure of the raid. But I'm not sure I would agree that was such a good design that it needed to be retained in TBC...
I think tobold is right. Pre BC inspite of all the bored old timers screaming for new content. I could log on and easily find a group for a 5 man. I could PUG MC, ZG or AQ20. If I really wanted to raid hard core there were guilds still into BWL and NAXX. I had many many options as far as raiding that went from old easy content to hard for a pug to really hard for a pug to joining a raiding guild.

That all died with BC. With BC you have good solid group of raiders or there's no point.
Sure in a few more patches it may get back to where it was but I don'
t think the populace is going to handle it well.
With blizzards long delay between expansions what happens is you go from a few really hard raids that almost no one to can do ,then it very slowly changes as new content comes out an people start pugging those instances then the new expansion comes out and "BANG" reset all the social raiders get screwed and have to wait another year for thier kind of game to come back.

It's ridiculous that it should happen that way. And it could have been avoided by slighty retuning the old instances and fixing thier loot to BC standards.
On the P'n'P-RPG-matter: Maybe you and your buddies should try "Wushu" ( For my group this game did the kick. We also hardly ever finished anything each night, maybe a fight and some detective work. Then came Wushu, and suddenly we could play half a movie (you will understand when you read the manual) in one evening.
I agree with Vlad and Shalkis. The 'difficulty' perspective on Karazhan is from the early release experience. MC was an even more significant barrier for casual raiders. How many 40-mans wiped on the first trash pull, their first time in?

My guild-alliance fits the profile of the 'social raiding' group at least 90%. Like Vlad, we field various groups for Kara, as we also have started downing bosses in SSC and The Eye. For us, we take all sorts of mish-mash groups into Kara -- including lots of new wannabe raiders -- and don't have any significant problems. On occasion we get groups that struggle on a particular boss or other, but we have a good time along the way with joking around.

It's a question of familiarity, and having a critical mass that are prepped and geared. We can afford to take a few people who just got their key and don't even know what a heroic is.

Just like MC in the old days. The struggle is getting to that critical mass of experience and gear.
Karazhan is clearly harder than MC. Take Moroes, he is more difficulty than Majordomo.

Why? Both require CC, Moroes deals more deadly damage per raid member, number of mobs to control per raid member is higher than Domo.

Aran is without doubt more difficult than anything in MC, yes including Ragnaros once you have FR tanks. When I first saw him, he reminded me of C'Thun some in terms of positional awareness.

You lack a priest at Moroes, it becomes very hard, you lack sufficient melee interrupt on Aran or a lock, same. You lack a lock at Illhoof? Same.

Only one dispeller in raid at R&J? You are in for a rough run. Doable but rough.

I'm sorry Karazhan is hard in exactly the way Tobold describes, it's hard in the sense of not being flexible enough in terms of composition. By design and it doesn't even have to do with encounter tuning but encounter design itself.

Maiden is comparable to Geddon in terms of relative healer/tank motion, but Maiden is harder simply because of the load on individual healers (remember that you had 15 at Geddon and some could die without any problems).

But I agree the story is complex. Massive amounts of people line up to do Karazhan. The organisational barrier certainly helps, but if you have enough people to do 25 man raids, the organisational load for Karazhan (2*10 with locksouts and composition need) far exceeds what you had to do for MC. There it was just getting 40 people together.

What brock said is perfectly right though. If you have critical mass and folks in full T4 and early T5 gear, suddenly Kara is easier. Why? You outgear it. But one shouldn't just Kara by its farmability really. But gear matters and raid composition matters.

The latter was Tobold's point and it's perfectly sound. Some Kara bosses will wipe 2-year veteran raiders if class composition is disfavorable. This isn't social raiding design. And there is really nothing in MC that can wipe 2-year veterans.

The paradox mathematically is this: Change one class the impact is 4 times as high as it was in a 40-man raid. It's actually worse, because those 3 that you lost may exactly be folks from the same class that can jump in and cover. 1 player down in Kara can oftn mean wipe, simple because a key utility is gone. Hence you have far less flexibility by the simple fact of lesser numbers. Add the specific design of encounters (being heavy on requiring class-specific utility) and you get what Tobold and Moroagh criticise about Kara raiding design and why it's less social than MC was.

In a not completely weird way raiding with 40 was more social too...

I have cleared most of Vanilla raiding content. I have yet to clear Kara, because social trumps progression. I have downed the early 25 bosses though (paradoxically easier ;)

Yet at least on my server there is no doubt that TBC killed lots of raid groups and more socially oriented raiding. My former successful raid group had to go more hardcore to survive TBC, and they progress at a much slower rate than they did in Vanilla. Most raid groups that they used to compete with have folded since.

I left the raid group because it was blatantly obvious that keeping my more casual friends on would mean that we would not see certain content and that the social strain would be immense.

I'm pretty happy now, but I, for practical purposes, do not raid, unless we manage a guild run of my new casual (RL friends) group (which has yet to down Aran!) Yet most are raiding veterans (>50%) and we do get occasional T4/T5 geared folks if they don't alt.

But Kara is hard and not very social and that's at current difficulty level. It's just that there isn't much else. I think ZA is long overdue.

A 25-man entry level instance would have gone a long way towards social raiding... something that actually teaches people stuff on the pace that MC did. Why did people wipe at the first trash pull? Well simply because they never had learned a raid level trash pull and corresponding healing.

Why do a lot not wipe on the first trash pull in Kara? Well, a lot are veterans and a single horse ain't that bad. Do raid newbies wipe on Attument trash? Absolutely.

But at the end we are far from the points Tobold and Moroagh made I think.

Some people may be happily raiding and feel their are socially raiding. Clearly that's not true for everybody and it doesn't take much googling to find a share of blog posts that document this very observation: that veteran social raiders stopped raiding in TBC due to its raiding game design.
Moroes is a good example:
My guild had 2 Kara groups yesterday and 1 rushed through the lower part and killed Aran, while the other barely killed Atumen and failed at Moroes.

Moroes "guests" could have been a mix of Human, undead, Demon, with a max of two being possible to CC. (would not put a strain on the class setup, while still not making the fight trivial) I think Majordomo had a limit of 4 CC'able Mobs.
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